I don’t think it would be too far fetched to say that Stuart Shave’s gallery (Modern Art) is one of the most pompous examples of post modern conceptual emptiness. Paul Lee’s current show is not an isolated case for other ‘practitioners’ (as they like to call them) such as Karla Black, Tom Burr, Yngve Holen, Philip Lai, Linder, Matthew Monahan and, maybe, Richard Tuttle, are part of a strategy that aims at creating aesthetic value from post-minimalistic emptiness.
In Paul Lee’s case, his work seems to find artistic value from the rather inaccurate jargon deployed by the gallery. Even though his frame-like objects look like emptied constructive paintings, the gallery insists in calling them ‘wall-based sculptures’ which are made from the cut fabric edges of bath towels, hand towels and washcloths, sewn together and coloured with ink. Thus, it is rather difficult to understand why they should considered sculptures instead of textiles or let’s go crazy here… why should we call them tapestries.
In Stuart Shave’s words: ‘Each work is structured from the square and rectangular units of this familiar material, put together with narrative associations in mind that make reference to the body, landscape, behaviour, and language.’ Would it be different to put a line of cocaine on a marble table? Couldn’t I refer to it as something that ‘refers to the narrative association of body, landscape, behaviour and language’. Where is the narrative there? That is not only not true but also (and potentially) fraudulent.
I am saying this because while the artist reduces everything to the minimum (on one hand, the medium is left unspecified and on the other, any attempt of formalisation is deliberately arrested), Shave maximises through his sales pitch the possibility of meaning to the extreme of referring to a ‘narrative’. The question is then about the motivation for anyone to add this to their collection. I guess people can be very stupid no matter who rich they are. J A T